Armed forces modernisation is a continuous process
The modernisation of the armed forces is going on at a lethargic pace which is worrisome. India somehow has not been able to strike the appropriate balance between economic development and national security as the powers that be ‘talk’ when ‘action’ is what is needed.
In two separate viewpoints, Lt General V.K. Kapoor (Retd) and Lt General P.C. Katoch (Retd) have brought to fore how the lackadaisical approach has affected the country’s preparedness as well the morale of the armed forces. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence has in fact slammed the government on Demands for Grants for 2017-18. This committee, like all other committees, is just an advisory body whose observations and recommendations are consigned to the cupboard or trash can without much ado. It is certainly not akin to the Senate Armed Services Committee of the US, to whom the US Government is answerable, which should be the case in any democracy.
Serious concerns have been raised by Lt General Kapoor who states that India has not improved its equipment status since the Kargil conflict. In fact, he goes to the extent of stating it has further deteriorated. During the UPA-I and II the situation had deteriorated considerably and it was widely acclaimed that the new Modi government which took over the reins of the country in May 2014 would rectify the situation. However, the current pace is too slow, and the hidebound and bureaucratic attitude of all stakeholders despite having a technology savvy then Defence Minister in Manohar Parrikar, was also surprising.
The ‘Make in India’ rhetoric sounded good for electioneering but it has not changed the ground situation because we do not have the technology or the know-how to make modern weaponry and our procedures are out of tune with reality, the General has opined. India needs to modernise its armed forces fast as we not only have belligerent neighbours in China and Pakistan, we need to be a lot more proactive as a regional power.
India’s influence in the region is substantial and we need to have that hold for geopolitical reasons. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina will be in India soon to take the two countries’ cooperation levels to greater heights. Not only is she a close friend of India, the manner in which she has gone after the Pakistan sponsored terrorists and terrorist infrastructure in her country, she portrays to the world the true nature of Pakistan. General Katoch points out that her visit to India is important in the background of rising China’s aggressive posture. There is no doubt that economically Bangladesh needs Chinese investments and China needs Bangladesh markets. However, it is the Chinese intent of the defence relationship with India’s neighbours and development of ports for use by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) that is a matter of concern.
Meanwhile, the debate on the removal/retention of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain districts of Jammu and Kashmir ( J&K) has once again taken the centre stage. This will remain a bone of contention for a long time to come with political posturing at the state and central levels.